Killie 0-0 Bairns
SPL Match 38, Rugby Park, May 8th, 2010
SPL Match 38, Rugby Park, May 8th, 2010
SELDOM has a scoreless draw invoked so much joy, appreciation and relief within the confines of Rugby Park.
Perpetrators of gloom, doom and despondency had predicted that Killie’s 17-year presence in the SPL was about to come to an end.
But the 8,500 members of the blue and white army who turned up at Rugby Park last Saturday were determined that wasn’t going to be the case.
And they were proved right!
The biggest home crowd of the season witnessed a draw that ensured Killie’s survival, but boy was it close.
The midweek win at Pittodrie had set up a grandstand finish, with a draw being good enough to guarantee Killie’s presence in Scotland’s top league.
With county rivals Ayr United already having been demoted to Division 2, supporters of Ayrshire’s premier club were keen to ensure that there wouldn’t be a double dose of relegation for the area’s two senior clubs.
It was all a bit nervy, and you could understand why that was the case.
But Killie did look the more positive outfit in the opening period, with the impressive Brian McLean denying Craig Bryson with an interception at the expense of a corner.
The home side forced five corners in the opening 15 minutes, but couldn’t quite get the goal that would have given the visitors a mountain to climb.
Danny Invincibile and Kevin Kyle combined to set up an opportunity for Manuel Pascali, but the Italian’s low shot was blocked.
The Killie goal then found itself under a fair bit of pressure as Falkirk pushed forward, but the home defence stood firm to keep their two point pre-match advantage.
It was understandable that there was a nervousness about both sets of players and, with goal opportunities few and far between, neither goalkeeper was troubled to any great extent during the opening 45 minutes.
Conor Sammon replaced Danny Invincibile on the restart, and it was Killie who had the first opportunity of the second half when Kyle headed Bryson’s corner on to the roof of Robert Olejnik’s net.
Killie then made another tactical substitution with Simon Ford coming on for Pascali.
In response, Falkirk boosted their forward threat with striker Mark Stewart replacing Tam Scobbie.
It was getting real edgy by this stage as the clock ticked down, and Sammon almost eased some of the anxiety being experienced by the home support when he ran on to a Kyle, pass only to be denied by Olejnik.
Seven minutes from the end Bryson wriggled clear on the left and the ball deflected off Darren Barr and clipped the top of the crossbar, with the referee awarding a goal kick when it was clearly a corner.
And the scares just kept coming.
With only four minutes to go Ryan Flynn passed up possibly the best opportunity of the game when he failed to convert a chance from eight yards that would have almost certainly ensured his side’s survival in the SPL.
Enoch Showunmi set up the former Liverpool player with the gilt-edged opportunity, but he couldn’t get a proper connection on the ball which flew over Combe’s crossbar – much to the relief of the Killie fans.
It was a dramatic ending to the match, but it wasn’t quite over.
Five minutes of added on time extended the drama of the occasion, but when the final whistle did eventually sound, it was relief all round for those of a Killie persuasion.
Kilmarnock: Combe, Clancy, Wright, Bryson, Pascali (Ford), Invincibile (Sammon), Kyle, Kelly, Hamill, Severin, Maguire (Fowler). Subs (not used): Bell, Hay, Old, Owens.
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